John 8A Judge – Not?!?

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Questions: On what basis does Jesus judge? On what basis should we? Where exactly is he coming from? Who is he coming from? Can we know Him? Have we?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

John 8:1-30

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

You gotta admire Jesus’ chutzpah, to sit in the middle of the temple and teach despite his near-arrest the day before. Though, the threat he faces today is of a very different kind:

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.

Ouch. Let’s be clear, these people were clearly hypocritical scumbags. First of all, they’re just judging the woman; where’s the man? Secondly, they could care less about upholding the Law; they just want to trap Jesus. Third, the whole situation seems contrived; how did they manage to catch an adulteress at such an “opportune” time, and why force a stoning at a time when such things are rare?

But all that said, let us consider the merits of their case. To cheat on a spouse is a terrible thing, wounding far more than a marriage. In a small village, it destroys the fabric of trust that normally binds people together — hence the severe punishment prescribed. The Jewish leaders were hypocrites for judging her; but, does she not still need to be judged?

What will Jesus do?

But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

Bam! What is the point of condemning others’ sins when we deny our own guilt? That makes the Law a club for punishing a select few, not a shield for protecting the many. No wonder the world despises public Christianity so much. 😦

And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Ouch. Still, having disposed of their hypocrisy, Jesus must deal with the woman. How?

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

How odd. Why does he ask her? Why does that matter?

The sobering thought is that in other circumstances — say, a wicked woman who preyed on a righteous town — the judgement might’ve been right. Yet, for whatever reason, Jesus doesn’t see it as his place to condemn — though he still warns her:

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Which perhaps demonstrates the difference between walking in light vs. darkness:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

That is, Jesus was walking in a clear understanding of the purpose and practice of virtue, unlike the Pharisees who used the Law to feed their own egos. Of course, they’re not going to let him off the hook that easily:

The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

Is it just me, or are they obsessed with minor technicalities like where he’s from and how he says things (instead of judging him on his merits)?

Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, [yet] my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

They — both literally and figuratively — didn’t know where “he was coming from“; though Jesus himself did.

Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.

Wow, that is powerful. The world often criticizes Christians as judgmental, and too often that critique is deserved — not that they are often much better. There is something inherently human in wanting to judge others, to put them in their place relative to us; there may even be legitimate value in it. Yet, Jesus doesn’t play that game.

Though, he could:

And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

Now he does seem to be playing with them. Clearly, if they don’t accept his testimony as valid, citing Scripture and invoking his invisible Father isn’t going to convince them. So, what point is he trying to make?

Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

I wonder if the larger subtext is that, really, they are condemned for not listening to him or knowing His Father (despite their claims to the contrary). Jesus is just pointing out what is manifestly true, albeit in a rather provocative way; though so far he’s still able to get away with it:

These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

So, he keeps pushing them:

Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

A cryptic statement, which they (in their confusion) assume to mean the worst:

Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

And Jesus just heaps it on:

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.

Ouch. This is the third time he tells them they shall die in their sins (unlike, ironically, the woman who was given a second chance at life). Their response is understandable:

Then said they unto him, Who art thou?

Who do you think you are, anyway? Who died and made you judge?

And Jesus saith unto them, Even [the same] that I said unto you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

Pretty mind-boggling, even two thousand years later knowing what was to happen. The bottom line, though, is that Jesus is really only concerned about the Father:

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [he], and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

And however confounding his words were to the leaders, many among the people understood enough to know he was worth trusting:

As he spake these words, many believed on him.

Do we? Do I?

Prayer

God, I understand so little about who Jesus is, and why he came. I confess that I am completely unworthy to walk in his shoes, yet I arrogate to myself authority and righteousness even he wouldn’t claim. Help me to be more like him, and to know you as my Father. Teach me to do what pleases you, and to speak only the things that you have taught me. Never leave me alone. I ask this for the sake of Jesus, Amen.

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